Saturday, September 29, 2018

Homily: Ordination of Peggy Alderman, Indianapolis, Sept. 29, 2018, Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP and Peggy Alderman ARCWP

Peggy considers her calling to the priesthood as a natural continuation of her close relationship with Jesus the Christ and the various life experiences she sees as gifts.   While resisting her call at first, she asked God for a dream one night…and she got it.  So be careful what you ask for!   Centering prayer on a daily basis guides her to where she is and will continue after ordination.  She trusts that the nurturing Love, and guidance of the Holy Spirit through others, nature, and prayer on a daily basis will continue to show her the way.

Like Peggy, who sees everyday as an epiphany, a treasure chest manifesting divine love, our first reading reminds us of our deepest reality: "I have called you by name. You are mine.". God is growing us from within, evolving us into a deeper awareness of our divine identity as the beloved of God. No matter how bad things get, or how chaotic our world or Church appears, each of us is an irresistible and beautiful face of God loved beyond all imagination.

 As we follow Jesus and the mystics, we know that the Holy One is growing us into higher levels of awareness where we have all the spiritual power we need to live life fully and serve others kindly. With a contemplative gaze, we experience God in action in our lives and on our planet everywhere. St. Paul wrote that the whole of creation is groaning in labor to produce the daughters and sons of God. 

“God is evolving sons and daughters,” Jim Marion reflects, “people who consciously realize their own divinity and thereafter become conscious co-creators with God of the future (Jim Marion, Death of the Mythic God,p. 93,)

The worldwide pedophile crisis which is rooted in a hierarchical system that enables domination and oppression of fellow Catholics.  is shaking the institutional Church to its foundation   This pathological condition is evident in toxic teachings such as the ban on women’s ordination, the condemnation of artificial birth control and the labelling of homosexuality as “intrinsically disordered.” In addition, a so-called ‘civil war’ between conservatives and liberals, is brewing in response to this scandal.

So, the good news is….

I believe that our international Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement is one of the ways that God is growing  our Church through us because 
First, we are egalitarian and inclusive. 
The vision of ARCWP is to ordain candidates- like Peggy- in a new model of priestly ministry as co-creators within a community of equals. As ARCWP and RCWP-USA ordain women, we are co-creating a renewed Church, one priest and one inclusive Catholic community of equals at a time. God is growing a new, inclusive Church today through our movement because we welcome all to the Banquet Table of Extravagant Love in our liturgical celebrations. We have dialogue homilies. The entire assembly prays the Eucharistic Prayer. Often ordained and non-ordained co-presiders lead liturgies. Each inclusive community is independent and makes their own guidelines tailored to their unique circumstances. We affirm the primacy of conscience of every person in moral decision-making. For more information on our vision, mission and preparation program, visit our

Second, God is growing a renewed Church through our movement because we are not clerical or hierarchical. We do not put anyone on a clerical pedestal but see ourselves as companions on the journey to wholeness and holiness, members of the community of the baptized. Each of us has gifts and limitations, and is a work in progress as the saying goes! The main role of the bishop in our model is to ordain. Priests do not take a promise of obedience to a bishop. Our bishops have one vote- like everyone else- in our decision-making process.

Third, We are prophets of the future who are not leaving the Church but leading the Church. In order to change an unjust law, one sometimes has to break it as we know from the Civil Rights and other human rights movements. Like the prophets of old, the international Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement is breaking an unjust man-made Canon law and ordaining women to foster true equality and gender justice in our institutional Church. The Church is all of us in the Catholic family, the people of God, not just the bishops and priests alone. I believe that God is healing the Church through ordinary Catholics, like you my sisters and brothers, who are living the teachings and example of Jesus, and who are ready for women-priests now!  

In our second reading from Romans 16:1-16, Paul greets nine women, who were leaders of Christian Communities that met in their homes: Phoebe, Prisca, Mary, Junia, Trphaena, Tryphosa, Persis, the mother of Rufus, Julia and the sister of Nereus. 

Paul commends Phoebe, whom he describes as "a deacon of the Church and a benefactor of many and of myself." This indicates that Phoebe was a prominent leader in an early Christian community, probably a person of some wealth who shared her assets to help Paul and other Christians. In addition, Phoebe may have carried Paul’s letter from Corinth to Rome. 

Biblical scholar Beverly Roberts Gaventa believes that Phoebe is the first interpreter of Romans, both in her informal comments to the gathered community in Rome and in her actual proclamation of the letter.

  It may be surprising for some to observe that Prisca is mentioned before her husband Aquila indicating she was of higher status as a Christian leader. 

 Paul identifies Junia with her husband Andronicus as an apostle, and both are affirmed as “prominent” among the apostles.  So, there are more than 12 apostles and Junia is a woman apostle!

“Whatever Paul writes or does not write elsewhere," Dr. Gaventa concludes,  "here he simply assumes that women, too, are God’s agents on behalf of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” (Beverly Roberts Gaventa, Romans, Women’s Bible Commentary, p. 555-6.) 

In the Gospel of John we encounter Mary, sister of Lazarus and Martha, who anoints and massages Jesus’ feet with fragrant oils and deep tenderness in their home in Bethany.  Here in this intimate setting of friendship she pours out her love freely and extravagantly. 

Scholars tell us that the Johannine language of the fullness of love is a treasure for women on our journey to wholeness, “because a one-sided emphasis on self-denial has led many women (and some men) to subscribe to an ethos of perpetual self–sacrifice, while the emphasis of the Gospel writer is that fullness and the sharing of love characterize discipleship and faith. The Christian Community is known by how much its members love one another, not by how much they deny themselves.” (Gail O’Day, Gospel of John, Women’s Biblical Commentary, p.526)

Like Mary, Martha, Lazarus and Jesus, we gather together to celebrate the abundant sharing of love that will be poured out through Peggy’s priestly ministry around intimate tables of extravagant hospitality where all are welcome.

 Like Deacon Phoebe, Mary, Junia, and the women leaders in the early house churches, Peggy is a prophet of the future- leading the Roman Catholic Church- on the path to gender justice, as she lives her call to discipleship in the proclamation of Word and celebration of Sacrament in this local community of faith.

We rejoice that God is growing and evolving our Church as we ordain Peggy a priest in this gathering of her family and friends in Indianapolis, Indiana today!

Peggy’s Reflection:

Well it’s hard to come up with words after hearing all of that!  No pressure of course.

What a journey this has been and will continue to be.  I went to Fatima retreat house this week for a couple days and nights of solitude and silence.  While there I thought I’d jot down a few words to say today.  I thought about the deep love Mary was giving to Jesus by anointing his feet with oils.  I thought about how Jesus took the time out to be with friends and to receive this extravagant love.  I thought about all of you coming here today and how you have all shown me such love over the years and have felt mine. I wondered about why it is harder to receive than to give sometimes.  It still just didn’t seem enough.  So I had a short conversation with a wise elder at Fatima who said, “Oh...just sleep on it and let the Holy Spirit work you over while you’re sleeping!”  Well...what a relief that was!  I went to bed, asked for a dream...and I got it...again!

The Dream
A friend I worked with years ago asked me for a foot rub.  We both sat down.  He took his shoes and socks off and preceded to show me spots I could rub and where I couldn’t.  I got real nervous because I was afraid I was going to touch the wrong spot and cause him pain.  He put his foot in my lap.  Sure soon as I started to touch the soft side of his foot, he pulled it off and screamed, “that hurts!  I told you not to touch it.”  I said, “ I was barely touching you.”  He remained looking into my eyes and I kept the gaze back at him as he lowered his foot back into my lap.  I decided not to look at where I was touching his foot but to keep eye contact and proceeded to gently massage it.  His eyes were full of  pain, fear and trust all at the same time.  I just wanted him to receive what I had to offer.  That is how it ended.
I woke up feeling both love and wonder at the same time.  Isn’t that living in the mystery?  I have learned that I don’t need to have answers.  It’s okay to live in the unknown as long as I continue to spend time and energy growing my relationships in this love freely given... and celebrate this love by remaining open to both giving and receiving.  Which is what we are doing here today!  I don’t think we need to do anything to earn this love.  We come from original blessing not original sin.  We are freely loved!  Amen

A Reading from the Prophet Isaiah 43: 1,2-4

I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
It won’t be a dead end
That’s how much you mean to me!
That’s how much I love you!
The Word of God.

A reading: from the Letter to the Romans 16: 1-8

"Be sure to welcome our friend Deacon Phoebe with all the generous hospitality we Christians are famous for. I heartily endorse both her and her work.  She’s a key representative of the church at Cenchrea.  Help her out in whatever she asks.  She deserves anything you can do for her.  She’s helped many a person, including me. 

Say hello to Priscilla and Aquila, who have worked hand in hand with me in serving Jesus.  They once put their lives on the line for me.  And I’m not the only one grateful to them.  All the non-jewish gatherings of believers also owe them plenty, to say nothing of the church that meets in their house.”
Say hello to Mary. What a worker she has turned out to be.
Say hello to Andronicus and Junia. We once shared a jail cell. They were believers in Christ before I was. Both of them are outstanding apostles. 
The Word of God

A Reading from the gospel of John 12:1-7

Six days before Passover, Jesus entered Bethany where Lazarus, so recently raised from the dead, was living.  Lazarus and his sisters invited Jesus to dinner at their home.  Martha served.  Lazarus was one of those sitting at the table with them.  Mary came in with a jar of very expensive aromatic oils, anointed and massaged Jesus’ feet, and then wiped them with her hair.  The fragrance of the oils filled the house.